Phil is coming towards the end of a long sentence for importation of cocaine. He’s been in prison for ten years. During that time he has lost contact with many of his family and former friends. He still has occasional contact with his brother. He has three children by his ex-wife Jo. The youngest of these, Simone, was six when he got sent down. Phil sent Simone a birthday card on her 16th birthday and to his surprise, she replied to it. Over the last few months, they have written to each other a number of times.
This week, Phil got the following letter from Simone:
Phil calls Jo.
It is sometimes difficult for family members on the outside to understand what loved ones have been doing in prison, and how their attitudes to life might have changed, especially if they have been in for a long time.
What could Phil do in this particular situation to help others understand? Perhaps he could write to Jo and explain why he wants to rebuild the relationship and also to explain all the things he’s been doing to better himself while inside. If possible, he should try and demonstrate change rather than just talking about it. He might also have to accept that at this point there isn’t anything else he can do. Perhaps he could write the letters he would have sent but not send them. Keep them and then let Simone have them when she is 18 and legally entitled to make her own decisions about who she has contact with.
If you are having issues similar to Phil and his family, Barnardos offer help to children with a parent in prison. It is possible they may be able to help, whichever side of the fence you are on.
Phil is having a Purple Visit with his brother
When discussing plans for release with your family member in prison, try to make sure these are realistic and achievable. Living in a world of ambitions might have helped you to cope with maintaining the relationship over a long time inside, but it won’t help upon release if those ambitions have no grounding in reality.
Concentrate on getting the basics sorted – somewhere to stay that is safe. This might be with you or someone else in the family. Also, try to help your family member build a small network of people around them who have their best interests at heart. Going back to being with old friends and acquaintances may not be a good idea, especially if you know there could be a risk they may end up going back down the same old path.
Always make sure you are being honest – first to yourself, and then to others around you.
Phil calls his uncle.
Knockbacks – Try not to take things out on each other. There’s a lot of things changing constantly, especially during a pandemic. Try not to give up hope.
You need to be patient. When they get out of prison, don’t expect everything to happen instantly.
Don’t give up.
Remember, if someone gets upset, you can always apologise.
Phil calls his brother.
If your family member is making plans for release from HMP Hewell, the prison’s Resettlement Team can help. There is a Job Centre Plus within the prison, although at the time of writing, this is not able to run due to the pandemic.
If you know they are going to be unemployed when they get out, they need to try and get their interview for Universal Credit set up before they leave prison. Unfortunately, this is the most they can do as, making the actual claim has to be done, by them in person at the Job Centre nearest to where they will be living. It has to be done on the computers at the Job Centre. If your family member is not sure about using computers, you or another member of your family or a friend could go with them when they make the claim.
As the pandemic eases, and more people are vaccinated, the prison itself should be able to offer more support in respect of employment and/or training upon release.
Make sure any plans for employment and/or living arrangement comply with any conditions of their post custody license.